Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016 -- Back Home In Texas

Note: this is not a travel site. Do not make any travel plans based on what you read here or think you may have read here. This could have all been a dream. Much of it was written days after the event. If this information is important to you, go to another source. 

My last travelogue note was on Thursday, this past week, the day I departed the Bakken. This will be the final post regarding the trip. It's possible I will write one additional note after I have time to think about the Bakken.

As noted on Thursday,  I got a late start leaving Williston because I spent more time with a couple of Bakken acquaintances over coffee than planned. I then spent a short time with Dad at Bethel Home and then started south.

As noted earlier, there was light snow but I made it to Bowman fine where I stayed overnight with another "Bakken colleague."

I got a mid-morning start on Friday.

The drive was incredible. Incredibly wonderful. The drive itself was a mini-vacation within a vacation. I stopped at a McDonald's in Sturgis with every intention to continue blogging about the trip and the Bakken. But I was in such a "pleasant state of mind" that I simply lost all interest in blogging, and resolved I would not blog until I got home. Not only that, but I resolved not to even check the internet the entire trip back, and instead, read more of the books I had brought along.

I cheated a bit during the latter part of the trip, checking the internet for e-mail, but pretty much stayed off the net. I did post a few items but almost nothing. When I travel, I also turn off my Samsung clam shell cell phone which I probably got back in 2007 or thereabouts. I turn on the cell phone when in a major urban area to check for messages.

I finally did what I had always wanted to do: get the exact mileage between Newell, South Dakota, where my dad went to high school, and the family farm south of Newell, where he was born and grew up. With that mileage and a few other mileage markers between Newell and South Dakota, I finally have the markers I had always forgotten to get.

One mile south of Newell High School, a cemetery on the right. Two miles south of the high school, a open, gulllied pasture. Three miles south, the new highway junction to Belle Fourche. And almost exactly four miles south, the family farm on the right.

Dad always said it was five miles, but I think it's four miles. He rode his bike to high school until it generally broke down halfway there, and then he hitched the rest of the way into town, but for four years, he woke up every wintery morning looking forward to a 4-mile hike (one-way or another to high school). In elementary and middle school, he had a horse. I never asked why he didn't take the horse when he was in high school. Maybe hitching a car ride was faster, and just as reliable in those days. I don't know. 

I took a slightly different route this time through South Dakota and Nebraska. I have no real alternate route options in the other states (North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas). I have a few options in Kansas but generally take the same route through Kansas every trip.

In South Dakota I drove east on I-90. Somewhere east of Wall Drug I thought I was going to see one of the most horrendous car accidents in real time. It was going to be quite "exciting" to see how this played out. I'm not quite sure when I first became aware of what was happening.

Two 18-wheelers were in front of me, one trying to pass the other, cab-side-by-side, trailer-by-trailer, probably cruising about 75 mph. In such situations, I drop quite a way back -- I don't need stones hitting my windshield. Absolutely unanticipated, the truck on the left started to cross the white hyphenated line in what appeared to be an aggressive move by that driver to put the truck on the right unto the far right shoulder, or worse, into the ditch.

Then, I saw the reason. A white four-door sedan, driving at high speed, in the wrong direction, had been heading head-on toward the fast-moving truck in the left lane. I assume the truck driver did not sort this out until the last moment -- first he/she had to realize the car was coming toward them, rather than what he/she probably initially thought -- that he was bearing down on a slow-moving car.

The sedan hit the soft dirt shoulder and the grass at the top of the ditch but even at 60 mph, I assume, was able to maintain control. The driver was a 60-ish year old white male who appeared to be fighting, successfully, to control his vehicle. He continued on past me and in my rear-view mirror he was still high-tailing it in the wrong direction. I grabbed my cell phone, turned it on, dialed 9-1-1 but no response. [I later learned one does something different on a 2007 Samsung clam shell cell phone to reach a "911 operator."]

Both semis went through unscathed. I was quite impressed. At 75 mph, both truck drivers realized that there was not much they could do; the worse thing they could do was over-react. They barreled through and some time later, I lost sight of them.


I drove farther east than usual on I-90, past Kadoka, and then to Murdo, where I turned south on US Highway 83. I do not recall ever having been on this road before. The scenery was incredible. Rolling hills, deep gulches, buttes on either side to the east and to the west as far as one could see. It reminded me of the North Dakota Badlands, but so much more extensive. I was also impressed by the number of cattle, particularly on the east side of the highway, all black Angus.

The few houses I saw on the reservation were the typical houses often seen on reservations in this part of the United States. If anything, everything looked a bit better than what I might have thought, but I did not go deep into the reservation.

The gas station / casino  -- Rosebud Casino -- is located almost right on the state line. I stopped to get gasoline. It was the first service station in South Dakota that clearly had an option that did not include 10% ethanol, which I took. It costs 10 cents/gallon more but I get better mileage and the car seems more responsive, though that's probably all in my mind. The casino service station, by the way, was one of the cleanest and most welcoming station I had visited. The tall, American Native male, unfortunately, appeared, incredibly bored. I don't blame him. I doubt he has much traffic.

Just before departing the state, or was it in Nebraska -- I think the latter -- was a highway patrolman on the side of the road waiting for speeders ... or drunk drivers returning from the casino. I seldom drive very fast .. and never drunk ...  so not a problem for me.


Valentine, O'Neill, and on to Grand Island, where I stayed the night. I'm always negatively impressed how far off the interstate some of the larger towns in Nebraska sit. That's particularly true of Grand Island. I have no idea why they sited the interstate so far south of the city, and/or why the city has not grown on the south side to get nearer the interstate.

The Travelodge was fine though I wouldn't recommend it. I'm sure there are better places along the way, and there were many choices on that same road I saw the next morning on my way out of town. But the price was fine. [I expected more of a Travelodge. Except that it offered the standard breakfast, it was no better than the less expensive motel I stayed in, in Salina, on the northbound trip when snowed in by Kayla.]


Grand Island and then to York, where I turned south to Salina, Kansas, and then the same route as I always take. Interestingly, somewhere between Grand Island and York, on I-80 this time, there was another white sedan with a 60-ish year-old male driving down the divided highway on the wrong side. In this case, it was just me and him, and I was far to the right. He was aware of his mistake, and pulled to the shoulder, and then crossed over the ditch to the correct side of the interstate. About a half-mile down the road, I saw how he might have gotten confused. The interstate entrance was different than most, allowing one to enter the wrong direction if not paying close attention, or distracted.

Or maybe 60-ish year-old males in the midwest love the thrill of driving 70 mph down the wrong side of the interstate. Whatever.


The trip from Salina to Oklahoma City to Grapevine (Dallas-Ft Worth area) was uneventful. I filled up one last time south of Oklahoma City where gasoline cost $1.39/gallon. Back in Texas, slightly higher. I was temporarily delayed on the west side of OKC due to a fender bender that had occurred some minutes earlier; the two fire trucks were just arriving as I was coming up to the accident.

From the state line to the Texas Motor Speedway, the speed limit is 75 mph before the Denton area where it hits 70 mph. The traffic moved much faster than the posted 75 mph but really moving nicely. No problems. If I were to drive that stretch again, I would drive ten mph more slowly, but the car felt good, the traffic was moving nicely, only a few trucks, and I was not that far from home.

500 Miles, 山本潤子


In the big scheme of things, a non-eventful trip, but incredibly enjoyable. If I didn't have Sophia -- 18 months old -- to take care of -- I would be back on the road tomorrow. Okay, maybe Tuesday.


I occasionally happened upon radio stations that I enjoyed, but not often. I listened mostly to my CDs, mostly Lana Del Rey, Roy Orbison, and Woodie Guthrie. The best radio stations were the classic western music stations in South Dakota and Nebraska.


I passed a stopped convoy of three trucks hauling wind turbine blades, and they later passed me at fairly high speed. Because of their length and width they are about as terrifying as anything one sees passing on the left, especially at 75 mph. I think the blade overhangs the rear of the truck by a good 20 feet. This particular convoy was north of OKC, if I recall correctly.

I am told that that the blades that will be on the Tioga (North Dakota) wind farm that will go up this summer are 180 feet long. Add twenty feet for the tractor/cab upfront and the total length of the tractor-trailer-overhang will be approaching 220 feet. That gets close to the length of a city block. Later this summer and autumn there will be 75 of these turbines off-loaded on the east side of Williston, which will convoy through the center of Williston (because US Highway 1804 is scheduled to be torn up for widening) and then north around Williston to Tioga.


And as they say, one thing leads to another:

The Ketchup Song, Las Ketchup 
The only question is whether this song charts again during the 2016 Olympics. Yes, there is a Portuguese version.

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